We use technology daily – have you ever stopped to think about how you access a smartphone, tablet, or computer? How easy or hard is it? For many individuals with a physical or sensory (vision/hearing) disability, the simple act of managing an activity or using technology independently may be difficult.
Five Features to Consider
When determining the best access method, here are five control interface features that need to be considered:
- Targets: When considering how the individual will make selections, the number of targets will need to be determined, but also the size of the targets. Another consideration is the space required between each target, whether for an AAC device or icons on a tablet, for example.
- Dimension: The overall size or dimension of the selection surface will be dependent on the person’s range of motion, ability to visually process the targets, and fine motor control.
Activation: There are several different ways a person can activate a device, and it’s essential to look at the options to match them to strengths and abilities. Below are a few of the activation options available:
- Movement: This type of activation is when a person uses an interface such as a joystick to move a power wheelchair, a mouse or joystick to move the computer cursor, or even a finger to access a touchscreen.
- Force: The amount of pressure used to activate a control interface is important to consider. Will the option allow for minimal or light touch or be sturdy enough for a firmer activation? Switches are an example of access technology that comes in varying force choices.
- Sip & Puff: When the person cannot use a hand, arm, leg, foot, or head movements consistently or accurately, an activation method that may be considered is sip & puff, which uses small changes of air pressure for activation.
- Speech Recognition: The use of speech recognition has become more popular and is more readily available with built-in options in software and operating system accessibility features.
- Eye Gaze: This type of activation technique uses eye movements picked up by camera technology.
- Feedback: The type of feedback the device provides to the user is another consideration, and feedback can be visual, auditory, or tactile.
- Durability: The durability of the activation method is an important consideration – a control interface that breaks easily should be avoided.
Determining the best access method(s) is vital to provide the individual with the best and most efficient way to use assistive technology.